KM, Maverick Magazine [4/5]

New hour-long mini album continues the on-going sonic adventures of the Alliance.</em><br /> Less than a year after the album For the Grains of Sand, the East Lothian trio of Craig Smith, Doug Johnstone and Viv Strachan, who make up Northern Alliance, release this new mini-album. It’s a departure from the previous album in that it is both more electronic and more delicate – in essence a return to the land and soundscapes which Northern Alliance inhabit so well. And a wonderful, clear world it is. Each song has a tendency to start deceptively simply with something like a just a guitar and a ‘bleep’ but they all build beautifully into, to paraphrase the title of track 4, fully fledged black swans, apparently gliding along on a wave of melody and harmony but close listening shows that underneath is all action and motion. As with the previous album, these are quiet songs best listened to up loud. This not only allows the crispness of the trebly guitars to shine but give a better insight as to how much intelligence and craft have gone into these songs. The lyrics too are full of depth. The opening We Hit The Town Drinking detailing the obsession with getting blootered but in a wistful, regretful way. Lest anyone shirk from the title track The Hand of God, which is, as you may suspect, about the 1986 World Cup, this is a gentle song about nostalgia and hope. In fact, hope and optimism run through this album like Blackpool Rock and even on a track called It’s the Hope That Kills Us, it is still “the hope that keeps us alive”. This is a charming track stripped down to basically drum machines and keyboards with hushed vocals over a solid wall of sound. The Good Black Swans also reeks of sanguinity and life. The entire album has a beautiful, dreamlike quality which leaves the listener both moved and uplifted.

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